Before our GOTY coverage kicks off in earnest, we wanted to shout out a handful of excellent games from 2021 you may yet have heard of. Every game mentioned in this series is top tier, so if any sound even remotely up your alley, it’s an easy recommendation.
For Your Consideration - Opus: Echo of Starsong
The best way to describe how OPUS: Echo of Starsong made me feel is this: after finishing the prologue chapter, I immediately turned the game off, opened Steam, and bought every game that developer SIGONO Inc. has ever released.
OPUS: Echo of Starsong is the third in a line of games in the same expansive OPUS universe, each of which is an entirely standalone story. There is no pre-requisite for jumping straight into Starsong. It’s a journey that doesn’t just stand on its own two feet, but a story that rivals the sci-fi classics of you already know and love.
Formed from a wholly original spacefaring adventure infused with feudalist ideals, Starsong focuses on the story of Jun, the exiled 8th son of a noble on a quest to restore his family’s status within the clan. To do so, he must seek out and find undiscovered asteroids filled with an invaluable resource to be mined and sold, bringing honour and prosperity back once more.
This premise is the driving force for the events of Starsong, but more importantly, the focus is more on character work and the growth of its cast. Early on, Jun crosses paths with Eda, a mysterious woman with the ability to locate these asteroids through the power of her voice – i.e. a starsong. There’s an entire history behind not only the characters you’ll be accompanying but the entire system of Thousand Peaks, that fleshes out these cool ideas and the impact they have had on the inhabitants of this world.
For a game so full of proper nouns, such an original premise and rich history and mythology, it never leaves you confused and disoriented. Not only is this emotionally resonant tale incredibly strong on its own, but it’s also backed up by some excellently paced and immersive world-building.
Much of the game is focused more on the relatively linear narrative, doled out through visual novel style segments, item descriptions and evocative location descriptors. This is broken up by a few different modes of gameplay; a few bespoke side scrolling sections involving puzzles, along with some space exploration – moving point to point on a map, with some light resource management thrown into the mix.
These light interactive elements keep this journey from being just a straight A to B story that you are clicking through, transforming it into a vehicle for connection to the characters through interactivity. None of it is all that strenuous – managing armour, fuel and exploration kits while upgrading your ship over time gives a sense of progression alongside Jun and Eda’s growth. Simultaneously, the collection and use of different starsongs in the 2D sections binds you to our protagonist and the crew.
It’s through these starsongs, and Eda’s voice in particular, where the veil drops in it’s entirety. Hearing the notes spring forth as she locates the next asteroid produces some of the most hauntingly beautiful melodies I’ve heard in a long while. All of the sound design is wonderful, in fact; the sparse piano keys played when booting up the game immediately sparked overwhelmingly positive memories of Nier Automata in my mind.
Playing OPUS: Echo of Starsong is like sitting down with a brilliant novel no one else has heard of. Only here, the light puzzle-solving and exploration you do helps drive connections to these wonderfully written characters even deeper. There’s a good reason why this game sits at a “97% – Overwhelmingly Positive” on Steam.
If you’re looking for a fantastically written sci-fi story to get lost in, OPUS: Echo of Starsong might just be the one to not only hook you in but bring a tear to your eye.